We all know or experienced the various forms of tourism: excursions, organized tours, independent travel... But what if we could learn
about a new culture, the worldview of people from distant countries, their traditions, and culinary heritage through 'reverse traveling’?
It is now easy as ever to see the world at home thanks to Couchsurfing.
I first heard about this description of Couchsurfing from my truly amazing host in Kuala Lumpur Eric Lim and it made me think about the idea of Couchsurfing in a little bit different way than I used to think.
So what is ‘reverse traveling’?
It’s simple! Instead of you going to the faraway lands, all your reasons for traveling come directly to your house.
My doorbell rings.
I open the door.
It’s Chuntao and Chen, a couple from China.
Their eyes and smiles are joyful, though I can see on their face that they are very tired.
I invite them to come in.
We have a dinner together, and then during the long Chinese tea ceremony they tell me the tale about their cancelled flight, their child’s dreams of coming to Europe and adventures on their first Eurotrip, a political situation back home, the future of robots and virtual reality, and so much more… Then we go out and I take them to the best viewpoint in Warsaw to see the city from a bird's eye view and enjoy the sunset ...
We never knew each other, but we are already friends. Here and now.
It's the magic of CouchSurfing.
And tomorrow we will cook Chow Mein together! Yum :)
When I think of what had the biggest influence on me in my life, what changed me and my perception of the world, I think of Couchsurfing.
Of course, there were other life-changing people, events, and activities, but Couchsurfing is on the top of my life-changing list.
I am a member of the Couchsurfing community since 2008, and the years spent with Couchsurfing are a time of discovery, meeting
inspiring people, and just the celebration of life.
When I joined Couchsurfing, it was a community of less than 1 million members worldwide. Now it is over 7 million users. I intentionally say ‘users’ because, unfortunately, many people registering on Couchsurfing don’t really get the right idea of it. I'm getting more and more surfing requests from people whose primary motivation is not intercultural exchange, but just free accommodation or dating.
I am convinced that "giving and sharing" should be the priority instead of "receiving and taking." Therefore, instead of being a passive member and just waiting for the next trip when you can surf with someone, I urge everyone to start hosting travelers, attend Couchsurfing meetups or organize it if there are no such events in your city.
Tips for Successful Hosting with Couchsurfing
Follow these simple rules, and I am sure you will have only positive experience with Couchsurfing.
1 | Read carefully what the potential guest writes about himself on his profile
It sounds obvious, but many hosts do not take enough time to study the profile of their guests. I speak from my experience. After all, you want to know who will
sleep on your couch, right? The ideal guest must attract you by something: interests, hobbies, knowledge, skills, countries he traveled, personal philosophy, or outlook on life. Be sure to read
reviews from other Couchsurfers. Here you will learn more about how your guest interacted with previous hosts.
2 | Refuse hosting those who didn’t care to read your profile
If you notice that someone did not even bother to read about who you are before sending you a request for an overnight stay, it's a moment to ask yourself whether you want to let such a person into your house. It is crucial for me that my visitor knows who he would stay with and I try to give as much information as possible about myself (what type of personality I am, what are my interests, what can I teach, what do I want to learn, etc.). I always feel in the text of the message if the person has read my profile or not.
Also, somewhere in the middle of my profile, I ask my guest to include the words “Privet, Sasha” (Privet=hello in Russian) in their couch request. Thanks to this,
it’s very easy to sort the requests.
3 | Give detailed directions to your place
Make sure you give all the important information to your guests such as address, telephone number and directions to your place (with detailed information on public
transportation, if possible). It seems obvious, but I know of many stories when the insufficiently detailed description of the location led to the incident.
For example, when I was living in Wroclaw, Poland, my boyfriend and I used to host a lot of people. That time I was waiting for the visit of the couchsurfer from Italy. Of course, I gave him my address: Rynek, 15 and the apartment number. The guy didn’t come at the time he said he would come. I thought “oh, well, these Italians are always late, he will show up later”. But no, I was waiting for him till the midnight, and he didn’t appear.
I was ready to write him a negative review because I had to change my plans for the evening due to his arrival. However, it turned out the next day that my guest was waiting for me in front of the house 15 on the Rynek Street, while I was waiting for him in the house 15, but at the Rynek Square.
4 | Be clear with your guest about what you can offer as a host
How much space do you provide? Is it a private room, a couch in the living room or a place on the floor? Clearly tell to your visitor in advance about the rules in
your home, so that he knows what to expect.
Do you feel uncomfortable giving the stranger the keys from the apartment? Write about it.
You are available to show guests the city in the evening, but you would prefer that during the day they don’t disturb you? State that directly. It will help to
avoid misunderstandings and unmet expectations.
5 | Trust your instincts
There are moments when you have read all about your potential surfer, he has positive reviews, but somehow you remain in some doubt and hesitation. If you do not
feel the excitement from the idea of hosting this person, it is better to abstain and wait for the requests from someone who you would like to meet and to spend time. My intuition never fails me,
and I promise myself to listen to it more often.
6 | Take care of your guest
Keep a folder with maps, bus schedules, restaurant menus, brochures and magazines with tourist information about your location for your surfers. My guests were
always infinitely happy about such a «welcome pack». If time allows you, try to show your guests the city. I really like to go to places that I know with people who've never been there: like
this, I'm looking at everything with new eyes again and appreciate the place more.
7 | Let the stranger in your life
Introduce your guest to your friends, take him with you to a party, and let him do something with you! Cook a dinner or go out to a restaurant together. Communicate, communicate, and communicate! It is the priceless value of the Couchsurfing interaction. You will for sure learn something new from your guest, and you can even make a new real friend!
A guest in the house is a gift.
In many cultures of the world the guest is sacred, and to be a good host means a good karma.
In the Caucasus, they even say, "Grace doesn’t come to the place where a guest doesn't come."
Open your door to a traveler, and the most important, open your heart!
Blessings & hugs,
Be awesome! Share!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, nice to meet you! I'm Sasha, a “free spirit” and a world citizen at heart who was born in the country that does not exist: Transnistria. I am on my adventurous journey to discover alternative, quirky, unique and unusual things to do and to visit in cool cities around the world. Join me and try something new! I write in Globish, since English is not my native language, so feel free to correct me or to make fun of me :).
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